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Want to Be Happy as an Older Worker? Branch Out on Your Own

Lindsay Olson

When we think of independent workers, we tend to think of younger people in the middle of their careers. But MBO Partners' State of Independence in America report reveals that a full 30 percent of the independent workforce are baby boomers.

The report defines independent workers as "people who work at least 15 hours a week in nontraditional, nonpermanent full or part-time employment," and self-identify as consultants, contractors, freelancers, and self-employed persons.

What's interesting is that boomers don't start working independently because they lack other options, or because no one will hire them after a certain age. In fact, 59 percent of these independent boomers chose this as their path. We could learn a lot from them.

Are Boomers More Happy Than Most?

For many of us, the grass always seems greener elsewhere. If we're punching a clock, we long for the freedom of being self-employed. For some entrepreneurs, the lure of a steady paycheck is a siren song.

But independent boomers are surprisingly happy being on their own. In the MBO Partners' study, 70 percent reported being highly satisfied working independently, and 84 percent expect to continue to work independently in the future. Few want to return to corporate America.

"Despite expressing concern over challenges such as having a steady income ... or finding their next job ... what surprised me the most was the depth of commitment boomers have to independent work," says Gene Zaino, chief executive officer of MBO Partners. "In an age of general career dissatisfaction, it surprises me that 70 percent of boomer independent workers are highly satisfied and a mere 8 percent ever want to go back to traditional employment."

The Benefits of Boomer Independence

Boomers enjoy being independent for a number of reasons. First of all, the freedom and flexibility offered with independent work: Approximately 79 percent of those surveyed said these factors were more important than money.

Understandably, many (60 percent) love being their own bosses. Others are drawn to independent work because they want to make an impact with their skill set, or because they want to be challenged and motivated in their careers.

Going Independent

If you're approaching (or past) retirement age, but you can't imagine not working, consider your options as an independent worker. Many fields need consultants to advise on temporary projects, and if you have the skills and experience, becoming a consultant is a matter of making the right connections in your industry.

You may also consider freelance or contract projects to keep your mind busy. Writing, design, IT, and business are all fields that frequently hire for short-term assignments.

Keep in mind that technology makes going independent that much easier; many positions (freelance writing, for example) can be done from anywhere in the world. Web-based programs, as well as tablet and mobile applications make it easy to connect to clients and even get paid without ever meeting face-to-face. With these tools at your fingertips, you just might get the best of both worlds.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.

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